Wednesday, December 31, 2008


To everyone who reads my blog, I would like to send a sincere Thank You. Your friendships and comments have meant so much to me. I love being connected to so many wonderful people through blogging. Wherever you are or however you celebrate (or not) New Year's Eve, I hope it's happy, safe and warm! And may 2009 bring you only happiness, good health, and wonderful things!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Snowmen Gifts

Last summer when I was teaching arts & crafts for the summer camp kids at Wheeler Farm, one week's activities focused on holidays. One of those holidays was Christmas of course, and this was the craft project we made. We'd had over 70 empty (and cleaned) liquid Coffeemate jugs donated, so we made snowmen.

I borrowed that idea for my Holiday gifts for the neighbors this year. We all (well, about a half dozen of us) exchange family gifts every year. First I cleaned the bottles thoroughly. Luckily, I've saved plenty of these all fall, because when I tried to boil the first batch (to sterilize them), they shrunk up. Oops - wrong kind of plastic for sterilizing!!! . Live and learn. So instead, I washed another batch thoroughly in very hot water and dishwashing liquid and let them dry.

The "scarves" are green wool (torn), the buttons are hot-glued on, and the faces are done with magic marker. Yes, I could've gotten fancier - vests, hat decorations, a pipe cleaner nose, even arms. But frankly this was fairly last-minute and I was "Christmas'ed out". They were filled with Stephen's Hot Cocoa Mix, and the hangtags I tied on with a silver cord gave the recipients mixing directions along with Christmas wishes.

Speaking of Wheeler Farm, I'm going over there tomorrow (we're officially off for New Year's, but this is a priority) because we had an electrical short and smoke in the furnace in the Ice House (the building where we held summer camp). The fire sprinklers came on and soaked much of the stored antique collection of the Farm in 18" of water (which was in a special storage area in the basement). Many things have been damaged beyond repair, but many of the waterlogged items are fabric - clothing, linens, dolls. I even found a soaking wet cigar box of buttons this afternoon. Yikes! We're trying to get everything sorted out and dried. Next week we hope to get a conservator in to help us with cleaning where possible. Don't want to proceed too far without an expert to guide us.
However, Salt Lake County (who owns and operates the Farm) is self-insured, so with budget cuts and hiring freezes, we're not too hopeful about professional assistance. Then we'll begin the task of inventorying everything. January and February are usually deep-cleaning months for the historic farmhouse and other indoor displays, so we've got a window to work within before we have to turn our attention back to public tours, etc.

In the meantime, I've got to go through all the summer camp arts & crafts supplies (which includes lots of contemporary fabric for costumes and dress-up as well as sewing supplies) to see what is garbage and what can be salvaged. We're trying to get everything done before it begins to mold..

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Crackers

Over the Christmas Holidays, the Yahoo group, Crazy Quilting International (CQI) I participate in held a Christmas Cracker Exchange. I sent a cracker to two ladies and received two in turn from other ladies. The two generous ladies I received my Crackers from were Laura R.. and Lyn G.

This bright and HAPPY cracker from Laura contained a pieced block done in bright cotton prints. It included lots and lots of extra prints, two yummy gold metallic skeins of thread, a silver metallic trim (which the cracker was tied with) and some wonderful sew-on shiny cabochons. It is all so festive, and I'm trying to decide how to best use this in a decorative Christmas project for next year! Thanks so much, Laura. Ya done good!! ;-)

Lyn G. sent me this delightful cracker, which she pieced in my favorite colors and theme - bright, rich colors and roses. The threads are silk, plus there was ribbon and metallic gold leaf trim, a generous and varied bead soup (with all sorts of goodies in THAT), plus some mouth-watering vintage shiny bead trim (see across the top). OMG, I LOVE THAT!! To top it off, she added silk ribbon and my very favorite thing....... vintage laces!! Oh Lyn, you went overboard!! But thank you soooooooooooo much! I love it all!!

I opened them first thing on Christmas morning before the waves of family started arriving. It was the perfect start to a perfect day!! Thanks! I hope you all had heart-warming and love-filled Christmases!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Peaceful and Healthy New Year to one and all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

I've been meaning to get these pictures up for a couple weeks, but you know how it is. There are only 24 hours in a day.....

More than half of my pictures didn't turn out (the stockings hung by the chimney with care, among other things), but I can always do those next year. So, here we go - I'm just hitting a few of my favorite things.

I collect cookie jars. Most of them are vintage, but these two Santa's are not (actually, they are Father Christmas jars). They are, however, very special to me. This is a Fitz & Floyd cookie jar. In my opinion, F&F make about the finest quality cookie jars (and other pieces) today. This Woodland Santa is about 10 years old.This is a Mary Englebreit Santa cookie jar sitting atop our vitrine (china cabinet).And speaking of Santa's, the following is a vintage composite Father Christmas that I picked up at an antique store in Galena, Illinois about twelve years ago. I keep him out all year.
One of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments is this one that I have left over from my childhood. It is gold plastic with a sort of angel-hair fiber swirled inside. I have another one in silver (not pictured). Once there were at least a half a dozen of each color (decades ago). I think I inherited four, but only the two remain.

In contrast to the vintage things are the more modern pieces that I believe mix well with the antique sideboard and my few vintage pieces. Isn't that what it's all about anyway - collecting what we like and is beautiful or meaningful to us? The next three pictures show different vignettes that are grouped on our sideboard in the front entry. We recently got rid of our old '80's oak entertainment center and 25-year-old analog TV and bought a digital TV, a credenza for the TV to sit on, a recliner (for us to sit on) and a hutch-style bookcase. Here is an arrangement of florals, sprays and spikes in one of my all-year vases. It usually sits on the hearth, but we're a bit cramped this year with the new furniture and our too-big Christmas tree, LOL. So it sits in a little niche in the living room.

And finally, below is a picture that hangs in the living room. It is a pencil sketch that my son Shane did in high school - it was a copy of a picture he saw in one of our yearly almanacs of a Frenchman sniffing a truffle . A high school art assignment. I just dressed it up slightly with some pale florals.And that's it for now. Thanks for stopping by!

Crazy Quilted Needlebook

This is a CQ needlebook that I did last weekend as a commission for a friend, Beverly. She is a wonderful older woman who maintains the art gallery at Wheeler Farm (a Salt Lake County Park and historical working farm) where I work. Her grandfather was Henry Wheeler, who built the historic Victorian home (now a house museum) and developed the farm before it was sold to Salt Lake County in the 1970's. ANYWAY, as an artist herself (oil paintings), she comes by her love of needlework and crazy quilting naturally. I was very flattered when she stopped by my booth at the December 6 boutique and asked me to make her a needlebook. She had no specific colors requests, just to do something I enjoyed. This is what I came up with. (FRONT):

It's actually done in the feel and colors of some of the girls' bedrooms of the Wheeler home (built in 1898). The laces are vintage, but the fabrics, trims, etc. are all new. And the "embossed" look of the green fabric in the top right echoes the Lincrusta wallpaper in the home's living room. (Lincrusta was a heavy embossed wallpaper - almost like linoleum - popular in the late Victorian era; I believe it was originally of English manufacture, but may have later moved to the US).

Here is the (simple) back:
First of all, I don't know what the "H" I was thinking when I did the spider sideways. But she stayed, better judgment notwithstanding. The little doily under the silk ribbon arrangement was done by my great grandmother. I guess I should call it the START of a doily - she left a lot of these started pieces for us, and I've loved using them in my work here and there.

Beverly loved the needlebook.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Altered Bottles

Just wanted to post some pictures of altered bottles I did last week. I'm in the process of cleaning my studio after a boutique and gift-making frenzy, and thought I'd snap pictures of these before they get boxed up. I got the idea from Lilla who could make art out of anything!

The bottle on the left had some yukky handsoap in it (bought it at Big Lots for a song). Only the bottle appealed to me! The bottle on the right was a Worcestershire bottle....

This was an empty blue bottle I found at a thrift store. The labels are printed from vintage copyright-free images. It's decorated with metallic lace and trim, charms, organdy and feathers.... Bottle top (can't really see it) is old piece of jewelry.

The above heart bottle was a thrift store find, although I've seen them for sale in Michael's. I added the vintage image, feathers ribbon, etc. etc. DH stripped some wires down to the copper for me, and I inserted the wire into a wine cork (luckily, I've saved those, too, for who-knows-how-long) and twisted it. The top has a vintage clip-on earring added.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Boutique - More Pictures

Here are some miscellaneous things I had for the Boutique which was held yesterday, December 6. These are two pillows I did some time ago. The fronts are pictured first and then the next picture is the backs. The yellow and pink one with yellow fringe is just a contemporary cotton print, and the back is vintage chenille. A pretty plain item, relatively speaking. The green, gold & pink pillow is made from vintage (1920's) drapery fabric I bought a couple years ago from a local linens dealer. The fringe is contemporary bullion fringe.

The back of the rectangle pillow is gold silk with lace that I dyed to match with potassium permanganate. This is my favorite one! :-)

Below are a couple totes; the first is a tourist-themed tapestry (double seamed, box-bottomed) and the second is a cotton duck print, also double seamed and box bottomed.

Then I experimented with a few different purse sizes and techniques; a denim purse, a small lace & bead-trimmed tapestry print (this was a great print of a French cafe that I used to have on my favorite chair and ottoman....) and a smallish purse of home dec fabric scraps...

And finally, below is an array of the curling iron cozies that I make. I did a tutorial for for these cozies (or "caddies") for the July 2008 issue of CQMagOnline here. The wrapped soaps were an idea that I got from Lilla; she blogged about them in November. I also had a lot of these stretch bracelets on hand, as well as miscellaneous beads, so I threw together a rainbow of bracelets.

An now a report on the Boutique. It was a disappointment, to say the least. Although there were 65 vendors and it was well advertised, we didn't have the loads of foot traffic that I've seen in Holiday Boutiques in years past. And those who did come didn't seem to be buying. Most people I saw leaving were not carrying bags or sacks.

One thing I didn't like that is was not an arts and crafts boutique per se. Rather, it was a "womens' boutique". Consequently, many of the vendors were beauty suppliers, health product vendors, importers/resellers (of junky purses, shoes and whatever), and even a vendor of sports-themed wallie-type things. Sigh.

But I did sell three of the six aprons I had on hand, some soap and some of the vintage tea towels. Made right around $100, which was disappointing. I had several pieces of CQ on hand, but not for sale. My intent was to create interest for passersby so they would stop at my table. It worked, and people in general were truly enamored with CQ.

I'm going to forget these boutiques and concentrate on Etsy and our summer Farmer's Market. I can get a Sidewalk Artist permit for an annual fee of $30 and set up my entire booth at the Market every Saturday and have ten times the traffic. I also will concentrate on strictly CQ and sewing-type things (aprons and purses and pillows) and leave out the crafty part - soaps, bracelets and altered bottles - except where I've got stuff already done that I can unload. Oh, speaking of altered bottles! I've got to get pictures of the four that I made. They didn't sell, which is OK - I'll just pack 'em away and sell them at the Farmers Market next summer....... But I want to show them to you, so I'll get pictures tomorrow and post them. Again, I got the idea from Lilla, bless her creative heart!!

And now my big goal for tomorrow (Monday) is to get my studio cleaned up and re-organized. Then I can start on two CQ blocks for a Crazily Cream round robin that I've been holding up. I can't wait to get back to stitching!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting Ready for the Boutique - Part 1

I've been working madly for over six weeks to prepare for a local Christmas Boutique that will be held at Wheeler Farm, one of the places I work at part-time. Back in the day, say 10-12 years ago, I used to do boutiques when I was a Creative Memories consultant. My crazy quilting days started in Y2K, but as crazy quilting is very labor-intensive, it is hard to focus on it for boutique items. If you charge for the actual time you spend creating a piece, you price yourself right out of the market. So, I tend to focus on small projects that include sewing and other skills. My business cards indicate that I will do custom commissions, and I will have some CQ pieces on display or on me (my CQ vest shown here).

This boutique was free to get into - they'll be having 10 shows next year and wanted to get a good variety of crafters and artists and develop a mailing list. So, I thought this was a good time to dip my toes into the waters, so to speak, and see if anything I do is marketable. I can always do Etsy, but thought I couldn't lose to try this first. It will be helpful to see what items sell or not, how my prices compare to the local market (Etsy prices would necessarily be different), and what's "in" and over-done or under-represented here.

So, following is a sample of some of the things I'll be hauling off to my table (not a booth!) tomorrow, December 6. Oh, and that's another thing. This venue will cram in 60 vendors and does not aim to compete with the Expo center shows (where booth fees run in the hundreds). I am allotted one 8' table, so creating height and visual interest will be a challenge while maintaining a cohesive but not-too-cluttered look. And I need to stand out somehow. I've been "practicing" setting up with various tablecloths, display bins and baskets, and.......... you get the idea.

First, the aprons. Featuring aprons is NOT a way to stand out. Maybe it was three years ago, but it is bordering now on "overdone". Having said that, however, I realize that everyone has their own style and target group. I had hoped to make a lot of "sexy" half aprons in organdy and hankies, but ran out of time. But that's an idea I may develop for the January 24 boutique, which will be a Valentine's Day theme. So, these aprons are from vintage patterns (4 of them) or my own basic design (bib, skirt, shoulder straps, ties).

These aprons above combine vintage fabric (new old stock 36" cotton kitchen fabric) with modern fabrics for accents. The left one is an old pattern, enhanced with hot pink batik and white rickrack. The right one is my own basic design, a pink, red and olive fruit print accented with a red polka-dotted modern cotton and red rickrack. That IS red, not orange - the colors didn't photograph that well.

Next are two aprons. I call them the "I Love Lucy" aprons, because the heart bibs remind me of the heart in the opening credits of The Lucy Show. These are made from a vintage pattern I have from the 1940's (have had it for years and made myself one years ago). I change it around now and then - enlarging the bib heart and/or deleting the lower edge scallops for a more rounded skirt. These fabrics are so cool; one is yellow and blue teacups and saucers on white. The other is a retro cherry print in yellow (I also have a smaller-scale companion print in yellow and the companion print in pinks). I've sold several of these over the last couple years.

As you can see, my photography skills need to be improved! These should be posed to show off the styling better. In this photo, too much of the waist ties and back straps show and obscure the fact that the heart bib is connected to the skirt along just a few inches of the bottom of the heart in front like this: ---V---

The next apron was made from scratch. I had a piece of cotton that had this cherry teapot print (sage green and brick red on cream) on it with a triple border print around it. I kept the first border of cherries with the teapot, lined it, and used it as a bib. The second border (the checkered portion) was used as a hem accent on the skirt I made from a sage green checked homespun. The final border, more of the cherries, went into making the shoulder straps. It was rather fussy, but actually looks much cuter in person than the picture shows.

And last but not least is the "chicken apron". I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bright, cheery, French-country-kitchen-inspired print in red and orange. I used a vintage pattern with this new fabric, and I think if it doesn't sell I'll keep it for myself!!
This last picture (for this post) shows a hodgepodge of things - a couple of crocheted scarves, some clothespins wound with vintage lace, a couple small pillows (is there something more romantic or imaginative to call them other than "small pillows"??). The black fleur-de-lis wide trim (edged in metallic lace and put on black velvet) was a piece that dear Willa donated to a traveling box of goodies on a Yahoo Crazy Quilt list about 6-7 years ago. It traveled between about 20 women, and we'd all take out what we wanted and put in other goodies to replace it. I took out some of this yummy stuff and made two small pillows. The other one is the same trim on a gold background, but it's having some technical difficulties on one seam, so I don't have time to re-do the seam before this boutique.

The round pink thing is a small purchased bandbox covered in pink wallpaper around the sides and topped with the a garden of vintage button-centered yo-yo's. To the very right is a small silk ribbon embroidered picture framed in a vintage-looking frame. The back yellow and pink cushion is just bits of home dec fabrics and trimmed with ribbon.

I'll post more later, as time allows. Thanks for looking!